In March I bought a cabin in Joshua Tree: 1958, with cinder block walls, cement floors, a massive stone fireplace and a wood-beamed ceiling. Once it was truly mine, I realized I had to figure out what to put in it. What would the people who had built this place have done? I borrowed the Guide to Easier Living. Originally published in 1950 and reissued in 2003, it’s a thoroughly articulated idea of a new American style and lifestyle from Mary and Russell Wright. Like the Eames, the Wrights were a design team that created sleek furniture and housewares; they had a strong philosophy about making good-looking things affordable, so they created lines for Montgomery Ward. The best known, the ceramics line American Modern, was designed to be beautiful as well as durable and unfussy. Unfussiness, in fact, is their approach to easier living: using indoor and outdoor space together, designing open floor plans, emphasizing ways to share space together. It’s illustrated by their drawings, often from an angle above like the one on the cover: see how it’s OK to put your feet on the coffee table? The chore lists were a tad exhausting, but the living has only gotten easier since those days (less ironing). The only thing I didn’t like about the book is that it’s out of print a second time — I had to borrow a friend’s copy. Collectible again, the book is $40 and up.
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